This Outdoor Room Is Remodeled And Ready For Company.
Before they even ring the doorbell, guests to this suburban Atlanta home are encouraged to stay. A sunken forecourt carved from Jerusalem limestone welcomes all who come to the front door while a matching 12-foot-long bench offers ample sitting space. Retaining walls give the court a more room-like feel and are an ideal height for setting drinks or plates, no coaster necessary. Cascading front steps and similarly inviting stairs leading to a walled water garden augment lounging options. The house belongs to “a highly social family who throws a lot of parties,” says architect Jim Choate. “In good weather, festivities flow into that outdoor room.” And fortunately Atlanta's temperate climate means nice weather dominates the social season.
When it gets sticky in summer, the adjacent water garden provides tranquil sanctuary behind the wall. Thanks to an innovative detail, visitors are treated to a peek of the enclosed water feature. “The owners loved seeing and hearing the water from the entryway before the walls went up,” Choate explains, “so we designed a steel door that pivots with pegs that lock it into several positions.” But that glimpse doesn't tell the whole tale. A long trough starts at one corner of the garden and changes directions and levels about four times before culminating in a deep, narrow spout that gives the illusion of filling an interior bathtub. An opening in the garden wall affords another vignette of the steel stream. Just below, an extruded concrete box features a central glass panel for an underwater view.
Even the soothing sight and sound of water trickling through a lush garden can't win against the South's intense heat and humidity. Fortunately, a few steps into the foyer, through the living room, out double glass doors, and across the back terrace take summertime visitors directly to the pool. “You walk into the house and the living room steps down a little so you can see right through to the terrace and pool beyond,” Choate says. The existing house had a small oval pool set right at the base of the terrace because the yard falls quickly away from the house. A retaining wall allowed the design team to insert a large grassy plane between terrace and the new rectangular pool. Thanks to a translucent perforated metal railing atop the wall, sightlines to the wooded hill beyond are uninterrupted. “Their property continues down the hill,” says Choate, “and the landscape architect did a woodland garden with a meandering path down the hill so no acreage went unused.”
The terrace was about the only thing that wasn't torn down during house and yard remodeling. “It was cast concrete and not going anywhere,” the architect explains. Everything around and on the terrace did change, however. A request for a bigger master suite well connected to outdoor spaces incited the renovation that grew and grew. Choate selected clean lines to best suit his clients' taste for modern art and design, but he didn't want static architecture. “The central piece is an abstract version of a traditional house and all of these other things radiate from it in a kinetic asymmetrical way,” he says.
A steel sculpture clad in more limestone enlivens the boxy addition and becomes a portal indicating the shift from public terrace to private rooms. A cutout in the floating screen highlights the bedroom fireplace, which was placed at a height to be enjoyed by people sitting on the terrace. Steel sculptures that Choate calls shadow casters generate a playful feel to the sleek white exterior. “I make them black to blend with the shadows that are created as the sun moves from east to west,” he says. One cantilevers out above the master bedroom's glass wall while another represents an abstract gazebo surrounding the outdoor dining area. They frame each window and door as well. Even the gutters get into the act by projecting out past the roof and ending in a segmented rain chain.
Creative illumination makes the black and white house come alive at night. One example: The low-voltage lamps above each set of French doors transform the frosted glass awnings into sleek lanterns.Dark walls turn the swimming pool into a highly reflective water feature in the rear yard. Filter outlets placed out of sight reinforce the illusion.Transparent glass railings and foundation plantings mitigate the height difference between the existing terrace and the newly created lawn. This segmented water feature practically rings a walled garden and fills it with the cooling sight and sound of flowing water. Low walls and stepped terraces form a welcoming outdoor “front room” to the house. Visitors get a glimpse of the adjacent walled patio and its water feature through strategically placed openings in the wall.